Ancestral War and the Evolutionary Origins of Heroism

14 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2007

See all articles by Oleg Smirnov

Oleg Smirnov

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science

Holly Arrow

University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

Douglas Kennett

affiliation not provided to SSRN

John Orbell

University of Oregon - Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences

Abstract

Primatological and archaeological evidence along with anthropological accounts of hunter-gatherer societies indicate that lethal between-group violence may have been sufficiently frequent during our ancestral past to have shaped our evolved behavioral repertoire. Two simulations explore the possibility that heroism (risking one's life fighting for the group) evolved as a specialized form of altruism in response to war. We show that war selects strongly for heroism but only weakly for a domain-general altruistic propensity that promotes both heroism and other privately costly, group-benefiting behaviors. A complementary analytical model shows that domain-specific heroism should evolve more readily when groups are small and mortality in defeated groups is high, features that are plausibly characteristic of our collective ancestral past.

Suggested Citation

Smirnov, Oleg and Arrow, Holly and Kennett, Douglas and Orbell, John, Ancestral War and the Evolutionary Origins of Heroism. Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, Issue 4, pp. 927-940, November 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1066015 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2007.00599.x

Oleg Smirnov (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stony Brook, 11794-4392
United States

Holly Arrow

University of Oregon - Department of Psychology ( email )

357 Straub Hall
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-346-1996 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://psychweb.uoregon.edu/people/arrow-holly

Douglas Kennett

affiliation not provided to SSRN

John Orbell

University of Oregon - Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences ( email )

1227 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1227
United States
541-346-0133 (Phone)

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